An essential component of international travel is proper documentation. For any American traveling abroad, a passport is a necessity. If this is your first time traveling abroad, here are the steps needed to acquire your first passport.
Step 1: Gather Documents
Apply for your passport several months before your trip. First-time applicants, minors, and applicants who may not renew by mail may submit their passport application at the Post Office. The U.S. State Department website explains what you’ll need to bring with you.
-Application Forms (unsigned) Each person traveling needs their own form filled out.
-Proof of identity document and a photocopy of the front and back
-Proof of U.S. Citizenship and a photocopy of the front and back
-Payment for Passport Fees
Step 2: Prepare your Application Package
Visit the U.S. Department of State website to learn how to apply for a passport and what documents you need.
-Complete your Form DS-11 Application for U.S. Passport on the State Department website here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/forms.html
-Print your completed application. DO NOT SIGN YOUR APPLICATION. A Postal employee must witness your signature.
-Have a passport photo taken. (Some post offices provide this service, but I recommend going to Walgreens or Rite Aid. The cost is approximately $13 per photo)
-Photocopy your proof of identity and U.S. Citizenship documents.
-Calculate your passport fees here so you aren't surprised when it is time to pay: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/fees.html
Step 3: Go to Your Post Office
I recommend scheduling an appointment, or going to your local post office at a time when they won’t be busy. (For example, avoid the lunch hour and don’t go right before closing. If you are getting passports for your entire family, it will take time.) I recommend scheduling an appointment at your local post office here:
Step 4: Wait
Passports can take 4-8 weeks to arrive, but usually come faster. If you are on a time crunch, I recommend expediting your application for an additional fee.
Applying for a passport for Minors:
If you need a passport for your child who is under the age of 16, you will need to follow these steps as well as provide additional documentation to show "parental relationship" and consent from both parents. A birth certificate will prove parental relationship as well as U.S. Citizenship. To see the detailed steps of how to apply for a minor's passport: